Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ramblings on Romances

Christian love stories. Not a genre I usually read. Perhaps it goes back to childhood. My father forbid me to watch soap operas or read love stories. He contended they made women overly emotional. I've got to say, he had a point. I've watched friends, nieces, and some of my daughter's acquaintances who are secular soap and romance fans. The drama they create in real life is embarrassing, ridiculous, and destructive.Does it have to be that way? What is it that separates Christian romance from general market?

Of course, there is the lack of sex. Today's Christian romance can admit the existence of sex and sexual attraction without characters indulging in it. There are some who would claim that isn't realistic. Some also claim it's unrealistic to have a trucker who doesn't swear or a dock loader who isn't a neanderthal. Yet in the real world—by that, I mean the world as I experience it—truckers and dock loaders can be followers of Christ who conscientiously and thoughtfully live their witness without profanity. People learn from what they read. Characters influence readers.

I remember how much I learned about life from the fiction I read as a small child: The Five Little Peppers series, Little Women, and Rose in Bloom. These taught me conduct, the value of prayer and faith, and consideration. What I read, I mimicked. (The point being made, I won't speak of the preteen years where I read stuff I wouldn't read today, which, of course, affected me negatively.)

There is value in Christian romance as characters respect themselves and others, and pay a price if they don't. Rather than being strictly social, a fall gives opportunity to learn of forgiveness, grace, and redemption. Compare Anna Karenina to Angel in Redeeming Love. In real life, who doesn't need forgiveness, grace, and redemption?

Fictional stories that have impacted me are Coming Home, These Is My Words, Love Comes Softly, Color the Sidewalk for Me, and Demon. A great story will endure even amateur writing, for example, The Shack. (The title alone scared me into avoiding it for months. The story stays with me because it bears truth.)

In spite of my initial disclaimer, there is an element of romance in each of these books, regardless of genre. Yes, even Demon and The Shack are stories of God's love for us, His Bride. He is sooo in love with us!

A recent study at York University found fiction readers were more compassionate in real life than non-fiction readers. Reading activated the part of the brain dealing with emotive response, with empathy. In other words, the reader learned from a vicarious experience. Fascinating, and not simply because it backs up what I've always believed: stories are powerful. Jesus knew this. He engaged the crowd through parables.

Most authors know this at some level, too. So, where's the romance in your stories? Is it overt or covert? What emotional/relational threads enhance your sci-fi, fantasy, or crime novel? Who are you hoping to influence? What romantic ribbon of any genre impacted you? Speak up, writers. I'd love to hear your comments.


  1. Actually, I'm in a small critique group in which I'm reading a romantic suspense, a contemporary women's fiction, and two historical romances. This is from a person who grew up reading James Bond, Allistair MacLean, Stephen King, and baseball fiction.

    In my two novels so far, there is minimal romance. Writing a mystery, the important thing is solving the crime. The romantic thread is a little stronger in the second than the first. But both have a more major theme of friendships in general.


  2. All of the fiction I've published so far falls in the romance category. I pray for my readers--that they will absorb the theme of God's love for us from my books, as well as repentance, forgiveness, integrity, and conflict resolution. And that God will use the humor to give them a grin!

  3. Jeff, I think branching out into genres we wouldn't normally choose can offer much education and often surprising enjoyment. Do you think it's changed how you write any?

    Rachael,I learned much about how to behave from books and women and men of today can too. Thank goodness for authors like you and JoAnn Durgin and Colleen Coble and.... well there's too many to list.

    1. Mary, thanks so much for the mention. Been away from Hoosier Ink for about a week, but posted today and am catching up. My second book is based on the same real-life couple as depicted in the current, hugely-popular movie, The Vow. But my book definitely has spiritual roots, and the real-life couple says it was their faith that pulled them through all the trauma of dealing with amnesia when the newlywed bride couldn't remember her husband. Can you even imagine? Of course, Hollywood left out the spiritual component. Christ does loves His church passionately, as His bride, and I portray that truth in Second Time Around, along with the idea that in order to regain everything he's lost, the groom (a prideful, self-made, powerful man) learns he needs to surrender ALL at the throne of grace. Blessings, Mary